#Brexit – should you submit that Horizon 2020 proposal?

I’ve just had someone ask me,

What’s your opinion on H2020 grants now? Apply anyway or move to Ireland?

So If you are a UK company about to apply for  EU funding or you’ve got a UK partner in your consortium,

what do you do now?

The problem that we are facing  is the uncertainty of the UK’s future access to Horizon 2020. And at the moment we have no idea what that will be. But there are only a few possible outcomes.

We might not actually leave, the referendum is legally non-binding, and there are various political forces at play to try to overturn the result, force a general election or have a second referendum based different terms from the EU.

We could become an associated country to Horizon 2020, with the same access and funding rules as other members.

Or we could have limited access because we decide to limit free movement of people in some way.

Or finally, we could have no access because a new prime minister will decide that stopping EU migration in the long term is better than the short-term economic impact. This is being called a hard Brexit where we cut ties with Europe all together.

Which one of these is most likely at the moment?

That question is very hard to answer with any degree of accuracy, but at the moment based on the economic impact of no access I can’t see that as a viable option. The UK economy is slowing down and the effects of Brexit are obvious for everyone. But if we get a right wing Tory prime minister then anything is possible.

With our other three scenarios, we are left with having access in some way. In two of those scenarios it is business as usual with full access. Only in the third scenario do we risk not having access because we limit the free movement of people in some way. We have an example with Switzerland with that outcome, who currently aren’t allowed to coordinate projects and can’t access the popular Horizon 2020 SME instrument.

What’s my answer to the question?

That depends on  your general acceptance of the risk, rationally we can say that the most likely outcome of any proposal is that you lose, it is a competition after all. You were prepared to accept that risk anyway before Brexit so you should still be prepared to accept that risk now. Nothing has changed.

Also preparing a proposal is generally a good idea because it helps you define a good plan to develop and commercialise your product. This is just good business practice and you should do this if you are serious about developing your idea.

Also, the next Horizon 2020 SME instrument deadlines aren’t until September and October, by that time we will have more of an idea of the UK’s relationship with Europe.

Even though Brexit hasn’t changed your chance of winning Horizon 2020 funding, it has changed your chances of getting funded if you win. But the most likely outcome if that we have some form of access, hence it is still a good idea to submit.

As for the moving to Ireland part of the question, considering the tax advantages and no uncertainty around the UK and the EU.

That might be a good idea anyway… 🙂

What about my UK consortium partner shall I kick then out as well?

I can see again that people may be emotional about this issue and react by asking their UK partner to leave. Someone on Twitter alleged that this had already happened. But again realistically the UK will most likely stay in Horizon 2020, and if things like coordination is removed from them, then that can always be solved within the consortium at a later date.

Ultimately science and research should be above politics, scientific collaboration goes on between nations even when political relationships are poor. This should continue, UK research enterprises still have a lot of expertise and knowledge to give to any consortium.

The UK science community should show continued commitment to Horizon 2020, and the EU science community should continue to involve the UK as equal partners in proposals.


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